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Center for
Social Innovation

Center for Social Innovation

Social Entrepreneurship

Phoenix I: Generating Preliminary Sales

Academic Case Study by:
Stefanos Zenios, Lyn Denend, Julie Manriquez, Christine Kurihara, Anurag Mairal
Published: 2012
[photo - Phoenix]

Phoenix Medical Systems was founded to manufacture an incubator designed specifically to address the needs of low-resource healthcare providers in India. Initially its founder, who also designed the device, tried selling his incubator through the few medical equipment distributors that existed in India at the time. However, he found this approach to be problematic. Relative to the simple medical products these companies were used to representing, such as syringes and blood pressure cuffs, the incubator was technically complex. The distributors’ sales reps were willing to represent the product, but they didn’t make an effort to understand how it worked so they were unable to position the device effectively and answer the detailed questions that doctors would ask. Phoenix was able to make a small number of sales through this channel, but the product did not gain any significant traction in the market. This mini-case study looks at how Phoenix addressed this obstacle by building its own direct sales force.

[Read Case]

This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings. 

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank V. Sashi Kumar of Phoenix Medical Systems for his participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Phoenix Medical Systems

PATH II: Demonstrating Products in Rural Areas

Academic Case Study by:
Stefanos Zenios, Lyn Denend
Published: 2012
[photo - PATH]

In late 2006, the PATH Safe Water Project received a $17 million grant from the global development unit of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Its purpose was to evaluate how market-based approaches could help accelerate the widespread adoption and sustained use of household water treatment and safe storage (HWTS) products among the world’s poor. Traditionally, this sector had been dominated by government and philanthropic solutions. Through a portfolio of field-based pilots, PATH intended to experiment with different commercial models for addressing this dire need.

One of PATH’s pilots tested a direct sales model in Kenya by making a durable safe water product — a ceramic water pot (CWP) — available through a basket of goods approach. The vendors who PATH partnered with were enthusiastic to experiment with offering the CWP. However, they quickly ran into a practical challenge. Consumers, who generally weren’t familiar with CWPs, wanted to see and touch the product, taste the filtered water, and interact with the device before making a purchasing decision. Yet the vendors were unable to carry the bulky, fragile CWPs long distances by foot. This mini-case study explains the creative solution PATH and its partner devised to address this challenge.

[Read Case]

This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings. 

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Tim Elliott and the PATH Safe Water Project team for their participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Blanton, courtesy of PATH

PATH I: Building a Direct Sales Force

Academic Case Study by:
Stefanos Zenios, Lyn Denend
Published: 2012
[photo - PATH]

In late 2006, the PATH Safe Water Project received a $17 million grant from the global development unit of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Its purpose was to evaluate how market-based approaches could help accelerate the widespread adoption and sustained use of household water treatment and safe storage (HWTS) products among the world’s poor. Traditionally, this sector had been dominated by government and philanthropic solutions. Through a portfolio of field-based pilots, PATH intended to experiment with different commercial models for addressing this dire need.

Several of the early Safe Water Project’s pilots involved experimenting with direct sales models for HWTS solutions. This mini-case study outlines the lessons PATH gleaned through these studies for helping its on-the-ground partners build an effective direct sales presence.

[Read Case]

This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings. 

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Tim Elliott and the PATH Safe Water Project team for their participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.

Photo credit: Hydrologic, courtesy of PATH

Maternova: Bringing Together Buyers and Sellers

Academic Case Study by:
Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend
Published: 2012
[photo - Maternova]

Maternova was founded in 2009 as a mission-driven for-profit organization with two main objectives: (1) to provide an online knowledge platform that would allow health workers, innovators, organizations, policymakers, and individuals working in the field to track tools and protocols with the potential to save lives in childbirth, and (2) to bundle and sell a select number of low-cost tools to equip frontline health workers to do their jobs more effectively. 

During its first year, Maternova built an Innovation Index that tracked more than 100 products — some of which were already on the market and others that were still in development. Thousands of users from more than 150 countries visited the site to learn about affordable maternal health innovations. The organization also developed a few product bundles and made them available for sale. The earliest adopters were midwives, nurses, and “globetrotting physicians” who provide training overseas for health workers who seemed to have great difficulty easily and reliably accessing supplies. 

As the site expanded, Maternova began receiving emails from entrepreneurs and small companies looking for a mechanism to help them sell and distribute their products. Without the backing of a larger company with established distribution channels, it was hard for innovators to get their solutions into the hands of the people who could benefit from them. Setting up a new sales and distribution channel to sell a single maternal health product was a daunting and expensive challenge for most young companies. They were eager to tap into a non-proprietary channel that could help them efficiently reach their target users. 

This mini-case study describes the gap between buyers and sellers that Maternova uncovered in the maternal health field and explores its approach to creating a marketplace for lifesaving solutions.

[Read Case]

This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings. 

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Meg Wirth for her participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.

Photo credit: Midwives for Haiti, courtesy of Maternova

Life Force Kiosks I: Reporting and Accountability

Academic Case Study by:
Stefanos Zenios, Lyn Denend
Published: 2012
[photo - Life Force Kiosk]

Life Force Kiosks is a nonprofit that aims to reduce preventable waterborne diseases like typhoid, cholera, and diarrhea to save lives in the most vulnerable communities.  The organization developed a new model of preventing water contamination by working with existing community water vendors to purify water and clean storage containers affordably at the tap. Customers in slums such as Kibera, just outside Nairobi, Kenya, are used to bringing their water containers to local water taps and paying for the water vendors to fill them. Life Force Kiosks equips these water vendors with the supplies and signage they need to offer water purification and container cleaning services to customers for a small incremental charge, which enables them to boost their earnings while providing a valuable service to the community.

In implementing this model, Life Force Kiosks would depend on a portion of the money collected from consumers to help underwrite the costs of the program and enable it to become sustainable on a long-term basis. Accordingly, it needed a system for tracking inventory, as well as the payments made to the water vendors for cleaning and purification services. Corruption at the water vendor level was common, so the organization was not comfortable relying on an honor system. This mini-case study explores the solution that Life Force Kiosks ultimately devised.

[Read Case]

This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings. 

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Jeremy Farkas of Life Force Kiosks for his participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.

Photo credit: © Life Force Kiosks

KickStart III: Marketing to Hard-to-Reach Consumers

Academic Case Study by:
Stefanos Zenios, Lyn Denend, Edward Sheen
Published: 2012
[photo - KickStart]

KickStart was founded by Martin Fisher and Nick Moon to design tools that would enable Africa’s poor to launch and sustain profitable businesses. Its first product was a line of manually operated irrigation pumps—branded “MoneyMaker Pumps”—that would help subsistence farmers transform their farms into profitable family businesses. 

When KickStart was ready to launch its MoneyMaker pumps, it faced the challenge of how to effectively reach and market the products to target consumers in Kenya, Tanzania, and Mali. In these regions, average farmers and their families are physically isolated, living miles from the nearest road without an address or electricity. Because they have few resources, most farmers are traditionally risk-averse consumers. Purchasing a KickStart product may be the most expensive purchase they will ever make (often a quarter of a family’s annual income). If that large investment were to fail, a family could starve for months. Moreover, many farmers understand little about pump technology and there are few if any existing channels to educate them about the benefits of KickStart products. The majority of farmers are not fully literate and many have no telephone. Some may have radios but they are only able to listen when they have enough money for batteries. Cultural norms in some areas also prevent the use of word-of-mouth sales and “viral marketing,” as East Africans are traditionally modest. This mini-case study explores how KickStart overcame these hurdles to successfully drive adoption of its products.

[Read Case]

This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings. 

Acknowledgements: This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.

Photo credit: Provided by KickStart International

Gradian II: Marketing to Multiple Stakeholders in a Complicated Field

Academic Case Study by:
Stefanos Zenios, Lyn Denend, Amy Lockwood, Edward Sheen
Published: 2012
[photo - Gradian]

After observing too many unnecessary injuries and deaths caused by surgeries that were interrupted or canceled due to the unavailability of anesthesia, Dr. Paul Fenton designed a device called the Universal Anaesthesia Machine (UAM) that could deliver safe, reliable anesthesia even in the midst of a power outage. Gradian Health Systems was established as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Nick Simons Foundation to disseminate the UAM. Gradian would operate as a nonprofit, selling the UAM at its manufacturing cost so that sales and production of the device would become self-sustaining and scalable within several years. Philanthropic funding from the Foundation would be used to underwrite the cost of end-user training at installation and a full after-sales service program. 

One of the organization’s early challenges was determining how to position and market the UAM to four distinct but interconnected stakeholder groups: users, hospitals, ministries of health, and donor organizations. Gradian had managed to get sales of the UAM off the ground mostly through referrals, but the team did not consider this to be a sustainable approach. This mini-case study looks at how Gradian developed a comprehensive marketing strategy for stimulating UAM adoption.

[Read Case]

This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings. 

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Erica Frenkel of Gradian for her participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Gradian Health Systems

d.light III: Building Credibility and Trust

Academic Case Study by:
Stefanos Zenios, Lyn Denend, Amy Lockwood, Edward Sheen
Published: 2013
[photo - d.light]

d.light design is a for-profit social enterprise whose purpose is to create new freedoms for customers without access to reliable power so they can enjoy a brighter future. The company designs, manufactures, and distributes solar light and power products throughout the developing world. 

When members of the d.light team moved to India to set up distribution for d.light’s first product, they quickly discovered this task would not be as easy as they had hoped. One challenge was related to consumers. Although many individuals in the target market desired to have light, d.light learned that it would be difficult to convince them to invest in a d.light product since the market was littered with low-quality, solar-based lighting products. Another challenge involved the distributors. The large, reputable distributors in India sought to work with established companies that could offer multiple products, in combination with a strong brand and well-developed marketing materials that they could leverage to promote the product. Accordingly, they were less than enthusiastic when d.light representatives approached them about carrying their first offering. This mini-case study evaluates the strategy d.light adopted to differentiate the company and establish its products as credible and trustworthy to earn the acceptance of consumers and distributors.

[Read Case]

This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings. 

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Ned Tozun and Sam Goldman of d.light for their participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.

Photo credit: Courtesy of d.light design

CycleBeads III: Implementing Too Much, Too Soon

Academic Case Study by:
Stefanos Zenios, Lyn Denend, Amy Lockwood, Julie Manriquez
Published: 2013
[photo - CycleBeads]

To help address the issue of unplanned pregnancy and maternal mortality in the developing world, researchers at the University of Georgetown’s Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) recognized the need for an intuitive, natural contraception method that could meet the needs of families that chose not to use medical or surgical alternatives. IRH developed the Standard Days Method (SDM), a simple natural family planning system that could be implemented in all countries and cultures across the globe. In addition, the team created CycleBeads to provide a visual, tangible tool to help women follow the method.

One of IRH’s first opportunities to roll out SDM and CycleBeads was in Mali, West Africa, where the team was asked by the head of family planning at the Ministry of Health to initiate a large-scale rollout. Despite some reservations related to traditional values, low literacy, and weak infrastructure in Mali, IRH decided to support the countrywide implementation. Unfortunately, the initial launch did not go well. In particular, fostering buy-in among health workers and expanding their capacity to offer the method was more difficult than the team imagined. Raising public awareness about the availability of the new method and how it worked was another challenge. In addition, IRH had trouble establishing an effective delivery and support model for the product. This mini-case study looks at how IRH adapted its approach to facilitate a more effective implementation of CycleBeads across Mali.

[Read Case]

This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings.  

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Victoria Jennings of the Institute for Reproductive Health and Leslie Heyer of Cycle Technologies for their participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.

Photo credit: Courtesy of the Institute for Reproductive Health, Georgetown University

Respira Design: Complex Requirements for a Simple Solution

Academic Case Study by:
Stefanos Zenios, Lyn Denend, Stacey McCutcheon
Published: 2013
[photo - Respira]

To help address the burden of childhood asthma in developing countries, Respira Design created an asthma spacer that was produced from a single sheet of paper. The device could ship and store flat and then be transformed into a usable spacer through a series of cuts and folds.  It won numerous awards for its inventive design and was lauded for its simplicity and effectiveness over other low-cost solutions.

However, because the Respira “spacemask” was a medical device, it was necessary to test the extent to which it impacted the delivery of medication and how many uses each spacer could sustain. The team also needed to study the circumstances in which the device would perform successfully, including whether it would function as intended in situations of emergency or distress. To conduct the necessary tests, Respira needed substantial funding; unfortunately, the team quickly discovered that potential donors and investors wanted to see clinical data showing that the device worked before making a sizable financial commitment. This mini-case study looks at how the Respira team addressed this quandary and the key factors that affected its decision.

[Read Case]

This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings. 

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Eric Green, Santiago Ocejo, and Barry Wohl of Respira Design for their participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.

Photo credit: Respira Design

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